Friday, July 28, 2017

Why Backing The Status Quo Is A Losing Proposition For Everyone Except The Very Rich


Thursday morning's tweet from Ro Khanna (D-CA)-- above-- is a good example of how someone can promote genuine economic populism. The program he, Bernie and virtually all progressives back to make state colleges free again is incredibly popular-- far more popular than Schumer's and Pelosi's recycled Papa John's Pizza slogan. As Robert Reich explained, "Higher education isn’t just a personal investment. It’s a public good that pays off in a more competitive workforce and better-informed and engaged citizens. Every year, we spend nearly $100 billion on corporate welfare, and more than $500 billion on defense spending. Surely ensuring the next generation can compete in the global economy is at least as important as subsidies for big business and military adventures around the globe. In fact, I think we can and must go further-- not just making public higher education tuition-free, but reinventing education in America as we know it."

Trump's in-house populist-- avatar of right-wing populism, Steve Bannon, also has a plan that could prove attractive to ordinary Americans-- albeit, probably not to many Republican leaders or donors-- taxing top earners at a 44% rate. Yes, you read that right. Anna Edgerton has the story which stretches the imagination of what we think of as Republicanism. But she even claims that "Bannon’s plan to raise the top income-tax rate for America’s highest earners could find some support among congressional Republicans as part of a populist message to sell a broader tax overhaul, according to one conservative lawmaker who has heard the proposal."

Bannon supports paying for middle-class tax cuts with a new top rate of 44 percent for those who make more than $5 million a year, according to a person familiar with his thinking. The lawmaker, who asked not to be named because discussions are private, said the rate pitched was 42 percent, which would be acceptable to some conservatives, as long as it’s coupled with a low corporate rate and other changes like repealing the alternative minimum tax. The current top individual rate is 39.6 percent.

The proposal could give President Donald Trump’s administration momentum to drum up popular support to rewrite the tax code, while wealthy individuals would get other tax benefits, such as the repeal of the estate tax, to partially offset the higher rate.

Earlier reports of Bannon’s proposal to create the highest top individual income tax rate in 30 years were initially considered unrealistic since Congress is controlled by the historically anti-tax GOP. Automatic opposition isn’t a given among some GOP members, said the lawmaker who’d heard the proposal-- especially if they’re made to understand how it could help publicly sell a plan that would include other changes in the tax code, the person said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much revenue the new marginal rate could generate. Data from the Internal Revenue Service show that in 2014, only about 0.029 percent of individual income tax returns listed annual income of $5 million or more.

In order to get support among conservatives, the corporate tax rate would have to be low enough to boost economic growth and prevent base erosion. Republican leaders in Congress have proposed a 20 percent rate, and even recently suggested a 22 percent rate before going back to their original proposal, according to the lawmaker. The current top corporate tax rate is 35 percent.

A one-page tax plan presented by White House officials in April suggested a 15 percent rate for corporations and pass-through entities, which would be a better target for policymakers to get support for the higher rate on top earners, the lawmaker said.

There would have to be measures written into the code to prevent high earners from categorizing themselves as pass-through companies merely to get the lower business rate on their income, according to the lawmaker.

It’s unclear whether Trump would support Bannon’s proposal. Trump has said he’s focused on tax changes that would help the middle class, but an analysis this month of the previous White House tax outline shows it would mostly benefit top earners.
Here's the problem for both proposals-- Reich's and Bannon's-- though: the party establishments won't go for either. The DC Republicans aren't about to raise taxes on the rich and the DC Democrats aren't going to agree to really push-- as oppose just pretend to back-- free higher education. And that's why primaries are so important. If you back the DCCC-recruited conservative Democrats-- they now admit they're trying to stock Congress with right-wing Blue Dogs who oppose everything we think the Democratic Party stands for-- you won't be building a coalition to further a progressive agenda for things like free higher education and Medicare-For-All. All you'll get is a slightly left-of-center-- ever so slightly-- blinkered establishment vision of the failed status quo.

I can't speak for Republicans who might back raising taxes on multimillionaires, but the Blue America candidates, all favor proposals similar to Robert Reich's for remaking higher education. And they are all committed to working for a Medicare-For-All healthcare system. The DCCC candidates? Nope... they are primarily status quo candidates. That's what a conservative is-- someone who wants to conserve the status quo. One of the Blue America-endorsed candidates, David Gill, was talking with me yesterday about his vision of progressive politics. Allow me to share it with you:
A progressive is an individual dedicated to improving the lives of all the ordinary men and women who make up the vast majority of our population. A progressive respects all those ordinary people, and sees their well-being as being infinitely more important than the well-being of large corporations and Wall Street banks. In the movie "It's a Wonderful Life", Jimmy Stewart's character, George Bailey, expressed the heart of a progressive in this outburst to slumlord developer Mr. Potter: 
"Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?
Goal ThermometerAt a very fundamental level, progressive George Bailey cared deeply about other individuals. I'm proud to be a caring progressive. That instinct drove me into my career as a physician, and it drives my quest to get to Congress and be a champion in the development of single-payer healthcare here in America. Working in the E.R., I see the "rabble" who have been beaten down by the insurance and drug companies and their cohorts in Congress, and it galls me. I cannot stand by and let such a heartless system persist without fighting back.
You can contribute to David's campaign by clicking on the ActBlue thermometer above. But the statements about progressivism below are from some of the dozen or so candidates Blue America is in the process of vetting for endorsements. All of these candidates are far along in the process. First let's look at the Austin-based progressive Derrick Crowe, who's taking on Lamar Smith in TX-21. "Bannon's support for this tax on top earners," he told us, "reminds me of the fossil fuel industry's 'support' for a carbon tax-- I'll believe it when the House passes it. It opens up the real danger to Democrats, though, from a faux populist Republican attack. If we fail as a party to unite behind a true progressive populist agenda--tuition-free college, a $15/hour minimum wage, single-payer heath care, climate change action-- Trump could seize the opportunity to scoop voters from us with lies and half-measures. We need to offer voters a clear choice and a real path to shared prosperity for the working class. Otherwise, Trump could be the new normal."

Kia Hamadanchy is a progressive running for the seat held by conservative rubber-stamp Mimi Walters in Orange County. He has an interesting take on what it means to be progressive in contemporary politics:

Being a real progressive is about not being afraid to do what's right, even when it could cost you. Howard Dean once said of Tom Harkin that he had always admired that he was almost always reelected by narrow margins, and that was because even though Tom Harkin is from a middle-of-the-road state that is trending Republican he was always willing to stick his neck out for liberal causes, even though he knew he’d pay a price for is on Election Day. That is what being a real progressive is all about. We have real problems in this country and we have to take electoral risks sometimes in terms of getting things done. That's what's really going to inspire people and get them out to vote for you.

I support single payer and I support debt-free college. But its not enough just to say that you support it. Its about being willing to put your neck on the line to get the job done. Because there are worse things in life then losing an election and its not just about how we go about winning but we deserve to. It's about being able to win the argument, about being to move a poll not just read it. Because if we act like our ideas are so bad that they can't survive the light of the day stand and we're constantly running away from, we'll never accomplish anything. Why would we ever expect anyone else to support them?
Levi Tillemann is the progressive candidate in the race for Denver-area seat held by Republican Mike Coffman. The DCCC has one of their non-progressives running, of course, but Levi told us that "A fundamental part of my philosophy is that we need to prioritize people over profits. That may sound like a slogan, but it's not. It's actually a powerful guiding economic principle-- and a key differentiator between progressives and Republicans (or for that matter, progressives and Blue Dogs). We use policy to make sure that new technologies, our healthcare system, trade, the energy sector and education are all directed toward reducing inequality and building up the kind of society we want to live in."

Like Marie, Hector Morales is taking on an entrenched corrupt conservative Democrat in a primary. TX-29 is held by a career-long servant of Big Oil, Gene Green. Last night Hector told us that "There’s a difference between backing something and being about something-- that’s the distinction between a true progressive and a Blue Dog Democrat who merely backs legislation for a few political points. Take a look at Texas’ Beto O’Rourke and Gene Green. O’Rourke has not backed HR 676-- Medicare for all-- with the excuse that the bill does not ensure that all hospitals accept Medicare. The problem with his remark is that the hospitals who don’t accept Medicare are primarily for those who receive care through the VA. Gene Green only recently backed HR 676 after seeing a myriad of Democrats backing the legislation starting in April. After 24 years in Congress, one would assume that Gene Green co-sponsored Medicare-for-all bills in the past. But assume makes an ass out of you and me. And that’s the problem the Democratic Party faces-- a lack of progressives and a slew of DCCC backed Blue Dogs who are nothing more than corporate shills in safe districts. The Democratic Party doesn’t stand for anything other than being anti-Trump, which doesn’t win elections. Ask Hillary. The very essence of the Democratic Party is about being progressive and representing the people, not wallowing just left of center and whining. This is why progressives need to take back the party and demand that the Democrats not only back, but become about, medicare for all, tuition free education, and renewable energy. Otherwise the DCCC can just burn a pile of millions of dollars-- at least burning them will keep us warm next November."

Jim Thompson is the Berniecrat candidate who ran in Kansas this year and almost won-- after being left high and dry by a DCCC not interested in promoting progressives. Jim is running again now-- and Blue America has endorsed him. Last night he told us that "Progressives strive to move society forward for the betterment of all citizens because a rising tide lifts all boats. We understand 'equality of opportunity' is more than a talking point, but rather is the basis for all that is great about this country and should be available to every person regardless of race, religion, sex, or gender identity. Progressives fight to return political power to the working class people of this country by ending Citizens United and removing dark money from politics. We assert healthcare and education should be considered rights and are part and parcel of 'providing for the general welfare' of the citizenry as required by the Constitution. Progressives battle for policies and laws that will stop the continuing redistribution of wealth to the top 1%, which has been occurring for the past 40 years through tax loopholes for the large corporations and stagnant wages for working class people. In short, as the name suggests, progressives believe in progress for society as a whole rather than the privileged few."

"A progressive to me is someone who wants to learn from the past and move ahead-- to make progress on behalf of everyone. We need to learn that people get excited by a message that they can actually feel, not one that they see repeated ad nauseam that leaves one shaking their head trying to figure out. It’s easy to think like a progressive. It’s not so easy to actually be a progressive."

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At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raising the top rate to 44% or 42% is like polishing the handrails on the titanic. Pointless.

Profit on $1.5 trillion in student debt makes a lot of money for a few oligarchs, a portion of which they kick back to friendly Rs and Ds. THAT money will buy a lot of betrayal once (or if) the Ds get a majority.

I'm sayin' don't hold your breath lest you suffere brain damage.

Tweaking the top rate on incomes over $5m won't do shit.

Money is so top heavy, society is at risk of capsizing.

1) cap gains on speculation needs to be taxed as income.
2) top rate needs to be no less than 75% and the top bracket must be no more than $2m
3) in addition, WEALTH needs to be taxed for a period of, say, a decade. This is to recover the revenue that was not taxed during the last 40 years. The wealth tax rate needs to be something like 5% per year on holdings over $2m. Higher the more loopholes there are.

health care needs to be a RIGHT for everyone at no EXTRA cost above current medicare tax rates.
everyone should have the RIGHT to be educated to whatever level they are capable of achieving at no cost.

So, if you only tax > $5m at 44%, not enough revenue to do either.

At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is correct. The status quo only benefits the obscenely wealthy.

So why should we vote for democraps? Tell me again how they have helped common workers since 1980... Tell me all about how obamanation helped the unions in WI and how bill fucking Clinton helped working consumers by passing GLBA, CFMA, xxFTAs, WTO and deregulating telecoms. Tell me how $hillbillarycare and obamneycare were such a boon to premia-paying consumers and how the prices of phrma has gone lower.
Remind me of all the criminal banksters that are now making big rocks into little rocks because obamanation prosecuted for defrauding the world of $20 trillion. And, of course, all the illegal wars and drone murders and torturers that were stopped and prosecuted by obamanation. And when cheney broke laws, became a war profiteer, ordered torture, committed perjury and so many more... of course nancy Pelosi honored her pledge to protect/defend the constitution and immediately had him impeached. And, naturally, when Bernie was mopping the floor with $hillbillary in the primaries, he won the nom and ran against the worst most criminal candidate ever and won by taking 45 states.

Remind me why voting for democraps is not just about the worst idea ever...

At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Remind me why voting for democraps is not just about the worst idea ever... "

Well, 1:53, such an act remains MARGINALLY better than voting for Republicans or Tea Baggers, if only because democraps at least offer to kiss you before the screw you.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which is why I qualified it by "just about". It isn't absolutely the worst. But it's as close as you can get.

So... why is it impossible, in the 21st century and in the usa (we're number 1!!), for anything NOT at least a little worse than before?

Couldn't we have one fucking choice that would be a slight IMPROVEMENT from the last one? We have Ds (always getting worse) and Rs (always getting worser). Why do we resign ourselves to this?

At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why do we resign ourselves to this?" asks 5:59.

Because we as a nation buy into the idea that if we have no chance of winning, we won't take a chance on winning by voting for someone else. Imagine the Election of 1856, with Republican nominee John Charles Fremont only beating Millard Fillmore who was running as a third party candidate. Then that backwoods railroad lawyer shows up in 1860. "We got beat last time with a GOOD candidate! Why would we back this guy? We'll lose for sure!"

How'd that work out again?


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